Overview of Osteoarthritis With Pictures

Osteoarthritis is one of more than 100 types of arthritis and related diseases. Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent type of arthritis. In the United States, about 27 million people live with the disease. Osteoarthritis is most common among adults over 65 years old but people of any age can develop the disease. Prevalence rises significantly after age 50 in men and after age 40 in women. According to the American College of Rheumatology, 70 percent of people over the age of 70 have x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis.


Cartilage Damage From Knee Osteoarthritis

Two X-ray radiograph views of male 44 year old knee with severe degenerative osteoarthritic changes

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Knee osteoarthritis is the most common type of osteoarthritis. More than 10 million Americans have knee osteoarthritis. It is also the most common cause of disability in the United States.

Deterioration of articular (joint) cartilage is the main problem associated with knee osteoarthritis. The condition can be caused by:

  • Previous knee injury
  • Repetitive strain on the knee
  • Fractures, ligament tear, and meniscal injury which can affect alignment and promote wear and tear
  • Genetics which makes some people more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis
  • Obesity which adds stress to the weightbearing joints
  • Problems with subchondral bone (the bone layer underneath cartilage)

Hip Osteoarthritis Caused by Joint Deterioration

Man with osteoarthritis


Hip osteoarthritis is a common type of osteoarthritis. Since the hip is a weight-bearing joint, osteoarthritis can cause significant problems. About 1 in 4 Americans can expect to develop osteoarthritis of the hip during their lifetime.

Hip osteoarthritis is caused by deterioration of articular (joint) cartilage and wear-and-tear of the hip joint. There are several reasons this can develop:

  • Previous hip injury
  • Previous fracture, which changes the hip alignment
  • Genetics
  • Congenital and developmental hip disease
  • Subchondral bone that is too soft or too hard

Three Common Sites of Hand Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, including the hand. Osteoarthritis of the hand most commonly develops at three sites on the hand — at the base of the thumb, at the joint closest to the fingertip, and the middle joint of the finger.

Mechanical wear-and-tear or injury can cause osteoarthritis to develop. When an injury changes the alignment of a joint, it can hasten cartilage damage. The damage is usually visible in hands with enlarged joints and crooked fingers. Bony nodules are common visible characteristics with hand osteoarthritis. Small nodules and swellings that develop near the middle joint of the fingers are referred to as Bouchard's nodes. When the nodules are located at the fingertip, they are referred to as Heberden's nodes.


Age Is Major Risk Factor for Neck Osteoarthritis

Medical consultation
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Neck osteoarthritis, also known as cervical spondylosis, is chronic degeneration of the vertebrae in the cervical region of the spine, as well as the discs between the vertebrae. Neck osteoarthritis typically affects men and women over 40 and progressively worsens with age. The prevalence of neck osteoarthritis is the same for men and women, but men tend to develop the condition younger than women.

The changes caused by a degeneration of the cervical spine region can compress one or more nerve roots. The compression of nerves cannot only cause pain in the neck, but also pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the arm. While a past neck injury can lead to neck osteoarthritis years later, aging is the major risk factor or cause of neck osteoarthritis. Seventy percent of women and 85 percent of men have x-ray evidence of neck osteoarthritis by age 60.


What's the Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is recognized as the most crippling or disabling type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis (also referred to as a degenerative joint disease or wear-and-tear arthritis) is caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage. Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones that form a joint. Cartilage loss can cause bones to rub on bone in a joint — a condition that is very painful. Usually, osteoarthritis begins in a single joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory type of arthritis. It is also classified as an autoimmune disease (i.e., immune cells attack the body's own healthy tissues). The synovium (lining of the joint) is primarily affected by rheumatoid arthritis, but organs also can be affected. Multiple joints are usually involved with rheumatoid arthritis.


Knee Replacement Is Last-Resort Treatment Option

Total Knee Replacement prostheis
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Typically, arthritis patients first try conservative treatments to control knee pain and to try and slow joint damage. If the conservative treatments (medications, injections, braces, physical therapy, heat) are not effective and do not produce a satisfactory response, many patients consider knee replacement as their last-resort treatment option.

The knee replacement prosthesis consists of 3 components: femoral (metal), tibial (plastic in a metal tray), and patellar (plastic). The prosthesis replaces your damaged knee joint.


Hip Replacement Restores Function and Mobility

Orthopaedic surgeon and nurse with replacement hip stem in operating theatre
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Every year in the United States alone, more than 285,000 hip replacements are performed, and the number is expected to double to about 573,000 by the year 2030. The traditional total hip replacement prosthesis, which replaces your damaged hip joint, consists of three parts:

  • a plastic cup that replaces your acetabulum (hip socket)
  • a metal ball that replaces the femoral head
  • a metal stem that is attached to the shaft of the femur

There are also ceramic hip replacements and other alternatives to the total hip replacement — for example, the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing System.

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Article Sources

  • Total Hip Replacement. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. August 2007.

  • Osteoarthritis Handout on Health. NIAMS. 7/7/07.

  • Osteoarthritis of the Knee. JAMA. February 26, 2003 - Vol. 289. No.8. A Patient's Guide to Osteoarthritis of the Knee. Center for Orthopaedics and Hip and Knee Surgery.